Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thoughts on The Crown

I just finished Season 2 of The Crown. Episode 10 appeased me to some extent after Episode 9, which so offended me. I don't think I fully grasped Peter Hitchens's argument in The Abolition of Britain about the destructive impact of the 1960s satire boom until I saw it dramatised in this episode. The scenes juxtaposing poor Harold Macmillan trying to be a good sport and laugh with the crowd at "Beyond the Fringe" but clearly hurt, the jeers of others including his unfaithful wife, the trial of Stephen Ward, and the Queen's distress at it all as the credibility of the old ruling class is shatteredin the Profumo affair, were quite effective, even heartbreaking. 

When people learn that I'm an Anglophile, they sometimes assume that I must love British comedy. Actually, with rare exceptions (e.g. Fawlty Towers), I often don't, because I see British comedy, or at least certain types of British comedy since the 1960s, as having contributed to the undermining of a lot of what I do love about Britain. The sort of Brits I saw on that stage and in that crowd, snarky towards everything, reverent towards nothing, are the sort of Brits I don't like at all, the sort of Brits who make me feel like perhaps it's just as well I don't live there. And while Harold Macmillan (1894-1986) can certainly be criticised, including from the Right, I for one felt deeply sorry for him in this episode.

I quite liked the scene when Princess Margaret claims that her renovations to Kensington Palace will somehow make it more modern and "egalitarian," to which her sister the Queen witheringly responds, "you're the least egalitarian person I know." I can imagine that conversation happening.

But even in this superior (to its predecessor) episode, the end of which seemed to have been deliberately calculated to tug at my heart personally, there was at least one disturbing false note, and that was the Queen's cruel parting remarks to the outgoing PM Macmillan. While the Queen's relations with her Prime Ministers probably could aptly be described as friendliness rather than friendship, if there's one quality of which I do not believe the Queen has an ounce, it's cruelty, and I can't imagine she would have said anything like that to the ailing Macmillan, especially as it involved also disparaging Churchill who the young Queen revered.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

RIP King Michael (1921-2017)

RIP King Michael of Romania (25 October 1921 - 5 December 2017), who was the last living adult head of state from World War II. I am saddened by his death, and even more saddened that he was not restored to the throne. My condolences to the Romanian Royal Family and to all loyal Romanian monarchists.

King Michael (1921-2017) (R) as a boy during his first reign (1927-30), with his cousin Prince Philip of Greece, now the Duke of Edinburgh, also born in 1921, on Romania's Black Sea coast. Incredible that someone who first shared the world stage as a head of state with Calvin Coolidge and King George V was still with us until today.

 Romania now sadly joins the ranks of former monarchies regarding whose successions monarchists are unlikely to reach unanimous agreement. King Michael & Queen Anne (1923-2016) had five daughters, but no sons. According to Romania's last monarchical constitution, which did not provide for female succession, Michael's heir is Karl Friedrich, Prince of Hohenzollern (b 1952). However, in the absence of a parliament loyal to the Crown, I choose to accept the late King's authority to modify the rules of succession and designate his eldest daughter as his heir, which he did in 2007. So I now recognise HRH Princess Margareta (b 1949), Custodian of the Throne since March 2016, as the rightful Queen of Romania. The King is dead; long live the Queen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Providence and Americanism

There's an irritating October 26 New York Times article by David Brooks, trying to make a tortured analogy between the Republicans of 2017 and the Bolsheviks of 1917, and it irritates me not only because David Brooks's main purpose in life seems to be being the sort of "conservative" that liberals find palatable. What's worse is that it arrogantly asserts that the "traditional" American way of being Christian--assuming that Democracy and Equality are moral imperatives--is the only way. Brooks implies that the "hierarchical societies" that dominated the world prior to the revolutions of 1776 and 1789 (and to a lesser extent until 1917)--that is, the great majority of Christian history, let alone world history--weren't really Christian, and that ancient thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle were deficient because they wouldn't have understood Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. It would make more sense to reject Christianity entirely than to believe that somehow no one really figured it out for its first 1750 years or so, but that appears to be what many Christians--including "conservatives"--believe these days. If "universal democracy" is "the global fulfillment of the providential plan," count me out. But perhaps Providence has ideas other than those of David Brooks.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Infanta Alicia centennial

Today would have been the 100th birthday of the genealogically remarkable Infanta Alicia of Bourbon-Parma, Duchess of Calabria (1917-2017), had she not died in March. The last surviving royal born before the end of World War I (in Vienna where Emperor Karl still reigned), she was the heiress by cognatic primogeniture of the Kings of Navarre, Edward the Confessor of England, David I of Scotland, and of the Jacobite (Stuart) claim to the English and Scottish thrones if uncle-niece marriages were excluded. Since her son Carlos (1938-2015) predeceased her, her grandson Pedro Duke of Noto (b 1968), also a claimant to the throne of the Two Sicilies, is the current heir to those theoretical claims. While at 99 she was not exactly cut off in her prime, I was sorry she didn't make her 100th birthday as she came so close. (Only one person of European royal birth has ever reached 100: Infanta Maria Adelaide of Portugal (1912-2012).) Here is Infanta Alicia pictured with Queen Sofia of Spain.

She was succeeded as oldest living European royal by the comparatively obscure Duchess Woizlawa of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Princess Reuss (b 17 Dec 1918).

18th Century Royalty in Minneapolis

On Friday during a wonderful trip to the Twin Cities, I had the pleasure of visiting the outstanding exhibit Eyewitness Views: Making History in 18th-Century Europe at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Full of magnificent paintings of splendid occasions related to Spanish, Neapolitan, French, Austrian, Danish, and Saxon royalty, this is a must-see for American monarchists. Created for the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, it's in Minneapolis until the end of the year, after which it will be in Cleveland. Highly recommended if you're near or able to visit either of those cities.

I also visited the American Swedish Institute, where the Grand Hall of the 1908 Turnblad Mansion features portraits of King Oscar II (1829-1907) and King Gustaf III (1746-1792), and attended mass at the Church of St. Agnes where the Catholic culture of the Habsburg empire is alive and well with Viennese style orchestral masses on Sundays throughout the year, in this case Dvorak's Mass in D. It was great fun to meet up in person with a few Minnesota monarchist friends with whom I had previously communicated only via Facebook.

A paradox. On the one hand, for an American to be a self-proclaimed "Monarchist" is fairly unusual. Yet at the same time, the aesthetics of Monarchy are so obviously and universally appealing, it is not hard in the USA to find art exhibits that celebrate them. And if I were the only one who liked them, these exhibits wouldn't be viable. Here are the catalogue books for seven major exhibits on monarchical and aristocratic themes I've attended in recent years, all but the latest one in Texas. I'm anxious though that Monarchy not be confined in the popular imagination to the past, as it still has so much to offer the present and future.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The People

One of the modernist concepts I most detest, which I'm convinced is intellectually lazy and meaningless, is "The People." For example, one reads that in Russia "The People" overthrew Tsar Nicholas II in 1917. No, they didn't. Nicholas II abdicated during street disorders (not the first of his reign) in Petrograd after being wrongly assured by those around him that this would be in Russia's best interests. No doubt some Russians were glad about this, but others certainly were not. There is no way of determining for sure what the majority view in 1917 Russia was, and even if there were, I vigorously deny that a majority can constitute "The People," since those who disagree with the majority are people too. In our time, even though I personally support Brexit, I would never dare claim that "The People" of the United Kingdom voted to Leave the EU. Clearly many British people did not. There is no such thing as "The People," only millions of individual people with many different convictions and opinions. Certainly I have never really felt part of any American "We The People." I'm just me. And you're just you. The majority don't speak for all individuals in a particular country. That's one reason I'd rather have a monarch, who makes no claim of being chosen by "The People."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Protestantism at 500

While perhaps not known online for being especially moderate or nuanced, like many High Church Anglicans I have mixed feelings about the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On the whole I'd have to come down on the side that it did more harm than good, and the splintering of Christendom, setting European Christians against each other, surely must be seen as a tragedy. I have no use at all for the radical, iconoclastic, egalitarian, proto-republican wings of Protestantism. (Neither did Luther.) At the same time, I can't quite condemn it as unequivocally as my staunch Roman Catholic friends do. I certainly would not want to be without the distinctive Lutheran and Anglican choral traditions, and include many Protestant royalty among those I admire in European history. I think I've always been clear that it's more important to me whether one is loyal to his King or Queen than whether he calls himself a Protestant or a Catholic. I don't think any work of music better captures my ambivalence than this B Minor Mass by the greatest of all Lutherans, Johann Sebastian Bach.